To quote another rapper: Pitbull isn't a businessman, he's a business, man.
In a time of general industry floundering, Mr. 305-turned-Mr.-Worldwide has anointed himself the king of endorsements and new business deals. Dr. Pepper? Sure. Kodak? How about lyrical product placements. Voli "low-calorie" Vodka? Why not.
Complain about the branding all you want. But it's allowing the bucks to keep rolling in, so Pit is able to continue making the music that's at the center of this vortex.
Beyond all this, though, Pitbull is known for being one of the current crop of pop artists most willing to embrace new technology, and new modes of delivering music and entertainment. That's why last month, when he dropped his new album, Planet Pit, he also released a full iPad app as a companion piece. (A quick warning: This is an iPad app only. Don't confuse it with the much lesser free "Pitbull" app put out by his record label for the iPhone -- it features similar artwork and an almost identical icon.)
Think of the Planet Pit app as a sort of interactive version of liner notes for the 21st century. Created by Miami-based ROBA Interactive, it features hours of behind-the-scenes footage, articles and background information, official music videos, and even producers' iso-tracks for each song.
The rub, for some potential buyers? A relatively high app price point for one, $9.99. Also, the app doesn't actually come with the album tracks. You'll still have to download the songs to move them around in iTunes and such.
Anyway, we recently got the scoop on the app from ROBA Interactive cofounder Rick Cikowski, a longtime video editor who used to work on Pitbull's TV show, among other high-profile music entertainment projects. He pointed out that the price of the company's future apps for other artists may change, depending on consumer reactions and the amount of content, and that the company also hopes to bundle MP3s with the apps sometime soon.
"Part of it is that the record company doesn't want to have all the music in there yet," he says. "Also, Apple doesn't have a way yet where you can download the app and also get all the tracks in your iTunes. But ultimately, we want to get the music in there."
And the Planet Pit app isn't even done yet. Think of the $9.99 price as a membership of sorts that will connect you to future content, Cikowski explains. "We're using the internet portal a lot more and updating the app, so it's going to continue to grow much more," he says. "So you pay your $9.99. But we're going to keep going to Pit's concerts and adding footage, and figuring out other ways we can push the technology."
All in all, adding up every video and interactive feature, the Planet Pit app currently offers, by Cikowski's estimation, more than four hours of entertainment. Not bad for superfans. Here's a quick overview of the app's features:
Here's the internet portal part of the app. Of course, as expected, it connects you to Pit's various web and social media pages. But this is also where users will get the latest updated videos and other goodies as ROBA continues to add content.
These are still photos from a large gallery contained within. It includes everything from these pensive studio shots to live snaps and photos of the recording process.
Alright, so you do have to be a superfan to enjoy many of these features. But said superfans will love this year-by-year timeline of the Making of Pitbull. Like this part, where we learn that he attended Coral Park, South Miami, Coral Gables, and South Ridge high schools. The timeline is also interactive, and you can touch various parts to view old freestyling videos, audio clips, and such.
If you're a words person, there's also plenty of text, including new and archival articles chronicling Pit's career. Though it may be padding the content a little, there is also plenty of material about the supporting cast of guest characters on the record, including this official biography of Marc Anthony.
Probably the most enlightening and entertaining feature of the app is the wealth of behind-the-scenes videos documenting the album's recording process. Some of this footage was filmed by Pitbull's in-house video man, Teach. But Cikowski and his colleagues also participated in documenting the later stages of the album's recording. Thanks to Pit's off-the-cuff recording style, they were there to capture the birth of some of his biggest hits.
"When he gets an idea, he's recording it within 24 hours. [When we started filming] there were a couple songs that weren't recorded yet, and he just had some rough tracks. Then he decided to record them -- and one of them was actually 'Give Me Everything,'" Cikowski says. "We dropped everything and sat with him while he was working."
Here's the major downside of the app so far: You can listen to song samples, but not full songs. You can tap to buy the tracks. But it's unlikely a fan enthusiastic enough to spend $9.99 on app wouldn't have them already. As Cikowski says, though, future updates or apps will hopefully come bundled with the album itself on iTunes as technology develops and label red tape lessens.
This is hands-down the coolest feature -- the Producers' Corner. Here, you can hear the isolated parts of every track; budding beat-makers may find this particularly enlightening. The only thing you won't find here, though, are Pit's actual vocals. "The label didn't want people to make their own remixes and stuff," Cikowski says.
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However, again, that may change. Cikowski's hope is to eventually add the vocals and add a feature that lets users remix the track inside the app, and then share their remixes, say, for contests judged by Pit himself.
Intrigued? The Planet Pit app is available now on iTunes. (Again, remember, it's the "Planet Pit" app, not the plain old "Pitbull" app. We wrote a post, since removed, confusing the two.) Not enough of a Pitbull superfan? Well, this is just a drop in the bucket for ROBA. Cikowski says the company is currently in talks to create new apps for major artists as well as similar experiences for other artists' back catalogs. He's sworn to secrecy for now. But as soon as the ink dries, we'll share the news.